From Third World To First in 30 Years
3 min read

From Third World To First in 30 Years

From Third World To First in 30 Years

I remember the first time I landed in Singapore.

The year was 1999, and I was on my way to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney.

Back then, I didn’t know much about the tiny nation. All I knew was that the air was humid and hot as if you landed in the tropics.

But just like Beijing had conquered my heart a few years earlier, Singapore immediately mesmerized me.

The diversity of cultures and foods, the cleanliness of the roads, the lush green parks everywhere, and the incredible people all left a lasting impression on me.

It had the colors and vibrancy of Bangkok, but with the organization of Zurich. It was surreal.

I ended up moving back to Singapore in 2011 to study business. And ever since, Asia has fascinated me.

To most Westerners, Singapore defies the laws of nature.

In the 1960s, Singapore was an impoverished mosquito-ridden colonial trading post. But within a few decades, Singapore became one of the most developed countries in the world – a position it still retains today.

Yet Singapore isn’t the typical developed country. It has virtually no real natural resources to speak of.

It also has one of the lowest tax rates in the world for both businesses and individuals, yet the government runs a solid fiscal surplus year in and year out.

Yet with these limited taxes, Singapore has excellent public services. The public education system is world-class, and so is both the infrastructure and the military.

Their banks too are some of the most stable and well-capitalized in the world.

Contrast that to the West – both North America and a large part of Western Europe, where, bar a few exceptions, taxes climb every single year to pay for worsening public services.

Western countries routinely spend more than they earn. As a result, they have made it the new norm to take on massive amounts of debt to be paid by future generations to maintain institutions that we already know are totally bankrupt.

Politicians incessantly give away more free goodies to citizens who feel entitled to their country’s success. The money tabs are wide open to pay for stuff we haven’t worked for – burdening our future generations with inevitable bankruptcy in a sea of debt.

In contrast, Singapore is successful because it understands the need to remain competitive in order to thrive.

Its’ leaders are constantly thinking about how they can make their country more innovative and competitive in order to attract capital, entrepreneurs, and talent.

And more importantly, Singapore doesn’t feel entitled to its success. Because it is such a young nation, it knows it needs to work hard to maintain it.

But Singapore isn’t the only country in the region with this mindset. And this is why I am so bullish on Asia.

I’ve had the fortune to live in several Asian countries and it’s been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.

Southeast Asians are some of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve ever met. They work hard, save a lot, and invest smartly.

They don’t take what they have for granted and are willing to work hard and make sacrifices to maintain their standard of living.

I’m an active investor in Asia – whether that’s in places like Vietnam, China, Singapore or Hong Kong.

The whole region offers tremendous potential. Singapore has one of the highest qualities of life in the world, but as an investor, my eyes right now are on Hong Kong.

For more than a year, Hong Kong has seen political protests to counter the ever-increasing reach of the communist party in Beijing.

As a result of the turmoil, Hong Kong offers us a unique opportunity to pick up extremely high-quality assets that I expect to do incredibly well over the next decades.

These are trophy assets that pay substantial dividends and that you can own for decades. But right now, some of these assets have gone on fire sale.

I'll be talking more about opportunities like these going forward. Stay tuned.